- Some scientists try to discover and report laws of nature. And, they do so with success. There are many principles that were for a long time thought to be laws that turned out to be useful approximations, like Newton's gravitational principle. There are others that were thought to be laws and still are considered laws, like Einstein's principle that no signals travel faster than light. Laws of nature are not just important to scientists. They are also of great interest to us philosophers, though primarily in an ancillary way. Qua philosophers, we do not try to discover what the laws are. We care about what it is to be a law, about lawhood, the essential difference between something’s being a law and something's not being a law. It is one of our jobs to understand lawhood and convey our understanding to others.
- Causation is also central to science and to philosophy. Molecular bonding, planetary orbits, human decisions, and life itself are all causal processes. A scientific explanation of an event will include some mention of the causes of that event - you something did happen without identifying what made it happen. Just as in the case for lawhood, qua philosophers, one job we have is to understand causation and then to share this understanding with others.
- As a result of the work of David Hume, many philosophers are influenced by a metaphysical concern and a skeptical challenge that have shaped what is counted as providing understanding of lawhood and causation. Hume's argument against the idea of necessary connection contains the plausible premise that we lack any direct perceptual or introspective access to the causal relation:
Footnote 1: Truncated rather arbitrarily!
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)